THE year 1999 saw the emergence of a young party, the MDC kicking Zanu PF in the shins and rudely awakening it from a deep slumber.
The MDC juggernaut, in its infancy, delivered the worst scare to Zanu PF, grabbing almost half of the 120 parliamentary seats across the country.
This feat was unheard of, it changed the political topography; it shook Zanu PF to the core and it altered history. For once, Zanu PF had something substantial to fear.
Today, 15 years on, a lot has happened: three presidential elections have been held, twice the MDC has split. In 2008, it almost assumed the reins of power. About three months from this date, it will be two years after Zanu PF triumphed over the opposition MDC formations in the last presidential election.
The last election was crucial for many reasons. Each party needed an outright win as there was a compelling need to do away with a shaky unity government.
Zanu PF, nursing a wounded sense of pride after succumbing to a power-sharing unity government, was strongly determined to see the termination of what it called a “marriage of convenience”.
Both parties recounted the rugged terrain they travelled working with their political foes during the tenure of the unity government. On the other extreme, the feeling and desire for independent rule was equally firm in the major MDC formation led by Morgan Tsvangirai.
There was an all-pervading mood of certainty in the opposition movement on the eve of the election that the time to dislodge Zanu PF had come. That the opposition had been victorious in the 2008 election, leading to a runoff, was a psychologically compelling reason to sustain the conviction that, as a final point, the opposition was set to hit the bull’s eye.
I recall the then MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti speaking on ZBC TV: “The time for victory has come. The atmosphere itself and even the birds, can tell you that an MDC victory is certain.”
Even their election campaigns where marked by a “Let’s finish it off” jibe.
To the opposition, Zanu PF resembled a staggering and exhausted boxer who only needed a single punch to send him tumbling out of the ring.
The opposition looked set for victory; what with the perennially deteriorating state of the economy.
However, as the minute-hand slowly ticked beyond the midnight of July 31, a dark cloud hung over the opposition camp. It slowly became apparent as election results trickled in that the opposition was set for a major heartbreak.
So intense was the heartbreak that the opposition family, after the loss, began to disintegrate.
Tempers flared and accusations were traded between cadres. The then party’s organising-secretary Nelson Chamisa bore the brunt of criticism, with some officials placing the party’s misfortune squarely on his doorstep for “failing to organise structures”.
A lot was said within opposition ranks after the defeat in the winter of 2013. Many who had not envisaged a Zanu PF victory also dug into Tsvangirai’s private life. Now, almost two years on, the opposition has resolved to boycott all elections and to press for electoral reforms first.
Now the question is: Will this move bring back the magical wand that saw the opposition party almost assuming power at the turn of the century?
Seeing as it is that the electoral voting field is yet to be levelled, judging by the recent by-elections, Tsvangirai’s decision might be prudent indeed.
However, internal fissures simply won’t end in the opposition.
One would have thought the internecine fights rocking Zanu PF provided a fruitful ground for the rebirth of a formidable opposition, but it appears the hurly-burly has also gripped the opposition, with vice-president Thokozani Khupe being fingered in the recent storm of another possible split.
It was unthinkable, at any rate that former MDC-T secretary-general Biti would one day square off with party president Tsvangirai, given how both men fought gruelling battles against Zanu PF.
No one imagined a situation where Tsvangirai would one day face internal revolt from men and women who battled on his side.
One wonders what has hit the party that claimed a historic 57 parliamentary seats in its infancy.
Should they rise from the dead, MDC sons and daughters who died before 2004 would scarcely believe the abysmal state of things today.
Now that the party has made a firm resolution to boycott all elections until electoral reforms are met, will Tsvangirai rediscover the form of 2000?
It is too early, in my opinion, for anyone to write an epitaph on Zimbabwe’s major opposition party. The boycott may be a good point to start.
With 30 months before 2018, the question is: Will the opposition, like the mythological phoenix, rise anew and fly again?
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